by Lindsey Bell
On the penultimate day of racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami on Friday (31 January) the lack of wind continued to test sailors’ patience , but the British Sailing Team still ended the day with four medals from four opportunities in the three Paralympic classes.
Megan Pascoe and Helena Lucas, 2.4mR - ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami 2014
Racing proved impossible in all bar two of the 13 classes across Biscayne Bay, with only the 49er and 49erFX events able to complete any racing.
But the cancellation of racing on the final day for the Paralympic classes confirmed Megan Pascoe as securing her second consecutive Miami World Cup title, and handed Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell victory in one of only two events that’s eluded them so far in during their six-year SKUD partnership.
The British Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas claimed silver, having also seen no racing on Friday, while Paralympic champion Helena Lucas will join Pascoe on the podium at Saturday night’s prize giving, winning 2.4mR bronze just three points behind her teammate.
'It’s a very, very good way to start off the year,' Ardingly’s Pascoe admitted.
'Last year here was a bit more tricky – I wasn’t quite leading going into the last day and I had to have a few things go my way – but this week has steadily gone my way. Everything’s been really fast and I’m really, really happy.'
The 2.4mR fleet was sent out and even managed to start at a race before any trace of wind finally disappeared from their course area.
Megan Pascoe 2.4mR - ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami 2014
'We had quite nice wind to start with – it was about six knots, as the beat progressed it was going more and more left, the pressure was becoming incredibly patchy,' the 27-year-old Pascoe explained.
'But going down the run it just went incredibly soggy – I was lucky enough to have had a good beat and was ahead of Helena and Allan, which is what I had to be, so even if the race had finished I was confident I’d still be in the position where I am, but the race wasn’t going to finish. We were definitely going to be timed out on that one.
Pascoe, aiming to qualify for her first Paralympic Games at Rio 2016, admits that her Miami win is a timely confidence boost at the start of the season.
'I think 2014 could be very important in terms of my Rio campaign. There are all sorts of rumours about when trials might start, but really it’s always nice to win and it would be nice to go to the IFDS Worlds in a really good place. They’ve always kind of eluded me so hopefully we’ll get one this time.'
Meanwhile, Paralympic SKUD class gold is the thing left on Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell’s hit list after finally breaking their Miami World Cup duck.
'We’ve been to the Miami World Cup five times – my first ever SKUD event was out here in 2008. We’ve done every year except one since then, and we’ve had every result from fifth to second I think. Finally now we’ve got to the gold, so now we’ve got a 1,2,3,4,5 in our five attempts!' Birrell explained.
'Our starting was clearly not good, but did have some good speed and were working our way through the gears,' Rickham explained.
'It was just good to be back in the boat and remembering stuff. It’s funny how after three months off you forget a lot quite quickly. It was nice to have a moderately relaxed regatta, manage to get control and then Niki threw in a few little tactical gems and we were off.
'There’s only one title left that we want, and we’ll do everything in our capacity now to make it happen,' said Rickham determinedly.
In the Olympic classes, 14 British boats across eight classes will feature in Saturday’s medal races, with the 49er pairing of Stevie Morrison-Chris Grube, windsurfer Bryony Shaw, and Sophie Weguelin in the 470 Women’s event heading into the final day in pole position.
The 49er and 49erFX classes were the only ones to see any racing on Friday, managing three races apiece.
Morrison and Grube posted a 1,16,4 to hold the overall lead on countback, and with three short medal races on Saturday, the podium spots remain wide open. Fellow British Sailing Team crews John Pink-Stuart Bithell and James Peters-Ed Fitzgerald will also feature on the final day, with Pink and Bithell poised in fourth and Peters and Fitzgerald in ninth.
Frances Peters-Nicola Groves and Charlotte Dobson-Sophie Ainsworth head into the 49erFX medal races in fourth and ninth places respectively, while eight-placed Podium Potential sailor Elliot Hanson qualifies for his first ever Laser World Cup medal race tomorrow alongside Nick Thompson in fourth.
Giles Scott will attempt to reel in Australian Oliver Tweddell’s nine point lead in the Finn class, world silver medallists Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond will hope to break into the podium positions in the Nacra 17 multihull event, while Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield will feature in the 470 men’s medal race.
Medal racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami commences at 1100 (local) on Saturday.
Schedule, Saturday 1 February:
Course Area Theatre:
1100 – 49er – 3 Medal Races (GBR: Morrison-Grube; Pink-Bithell; Peters-Fitzgerald)
1200 – 49erFX – 3 Medal Races (GBR: Peters-Groves; Dobson-Ainsworth)
Course Area Alpha:
1330 – Radial Medal Race
1400 – Laser Medal Race (GBR: Thompson; Hanson)
Course Area Bravo:
1100 – 470 Men Medal Race (GBR: Patience-Glanfield)
1130 – 470 Women Medal Race (GBR: Weguelin-McIntyre)
1200 – Finn Medal Race (GBR: Scott)
1230 – RS:X Men Medal Race
1300 – RS:X Women Medal Race (GBR: Shaw; Hamilton)
1330 – Nacra 17 Medal Race (GBR: Saxton-Diamond; Wilson-Gimson)